After-school programs

Today, millions of children return to an empty home after school. When the school bell rings, the anxiety for parents often just begins. They worry about whether their children are safe, whether they are susceptible to drugs and crime. In response to this pressing concern, many communities have created after-school programs to keep children and youth out of trouble and engaged in activities that help them learn. Recent polls have found overwhelming adult support to personally ensure access to after-school programs for children in their community.However, a chronic shortage of quality after-school programs exists. According to parents, the need far exceeds the current supply. One recent study found that twice as many elementary and middle school parents wanted after-school programs than were currently available.After-school programs provide a wide array of benefits to children, their families, schools, and the whole community. This report, jointly authored by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, focuses exclusively on the benefits children receive in terms of increased safety, reduced risk-taking, and improved learning.First and foremost, after-school programs keep children of all ages safe and out of trouble. The after-school hours are the time when juvenile crime hits its peak, but through attentive adult supervision, quality after-school programs can protect our children. As this report shows, in communities with comprehensive programs, children are less likely to commit crimes or to be victimized.After-school programs also can help to improve the academic performance of participating children. For many children, their reading and math scores have improved in large part because after-school programs allow them to focus attention on areas in which they are having difficulties. Many programs connect learning to more relaxed and enriching activities, thereby improving academic performance as well.After-school programs like Cabrini Connections are there to do just that, enrich their lives by improving their academic performance, giving them attention, and keeping them out of trouble. If you are having trouble looking for an after-school program for you child, please consider checking out tutor mentor programs in your area.Jordan E. Merlo
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  • When we talk of "after school" we divide that time frame into two different time frames. Right after school, from 3:30 to 5:30 is the traditional time when parents need a place for kids to go until parents are home from work. Boys & Girls Clubs, Youth Centers, and many other types of organizations fill this time frame.

    We use maps, which you can see in this link, to focus attention on high poverty inner city neighborhoods, where not having a safe place to go after school can be dangerous, and where having a place where you connect with a wide range of adult mentors and tutors and learning activities, can be positive. Our maps show that there are too few of these programs in Chicago.

    One challenge in a bit city like Chicago is connecting youth and volunteers. The size of the city makes it difficult for volunteers to get to programs in high poverty areas. It also is difficult to leave work on a weekly basis needed to build long-term relationships and really influence student aspirations and study habits. Thus, we focus on a second non-school time frame, the early evening hours, from 5:30pm to 8pm.

    This is a time frame when volunteers who are commuting home from jobs in the city to the suburbs, might stop at a non school program on a weekly basis, and become leaders, tutors, mentors. We've had more than 800 volunteers take this role at Cabrini Connections since 1993 and some have stayed involved for five to 10 years.

    If we can educate policy makers, donors, business partners to think of the non-school, and after school hours, as two time frames, then the marketing and funding strategies should be designed to make good programs available in both time frames, especially in the high poverty neighborhoods where such programs can be a key part of any successful education reform strategy.

    Read more about ideas like this on the Tutor/Mentor Blog and Tutor/Mentor Institute.
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